As expected, the proposed Airworthiness Directive to inspect the wing spar on thousands of Piper PA-28 and PA-32-series aircraft (including retracs) has been finalized. As we reported last fall, the AD was prompted after an Embry- Riddle Aeronautical University Piper Arrow lost a wing on a commercial checkride flight in Florida back in 2018.
The final ruling and prescribed compliance is written in AD 2020-26-16 and includes inspection for wing fatigue cracking in a visually inaccessible area of the lower main wing spar cap.
Since this is stress damage, the inspection interval for a given aircraft is determined by calculating the factored service hours for each main wing spar. Then, when an inspection is due, look hard at the lower main wing spar bolt holes for cracks. Worst case (other than actual failure) is having to replace a cracked wing spar. Searching the used market for a PA-28 or PA-32 to call your own? Pay attention to the total time on the airframe—and its inspection history.
The FAA writes in the AD that because training aircraft (subjected to high aerodynamic loads, presumably) are typically operated for hire and subject to 100-hour inspections, the number of 100-hour inspections completed on AD-applicable aircraft would be the best indicator of the airplane’s usage history. Put a formula to the number of hours flown on the airframe and the number of 100-hour inspections completed to determine when an airplane meets the criteria for an eddy current inspection on lower main wing spar bolt holes.
As with any used aircraft, inspection records are critical. According to AOPA, the FAA notified the organization, saying it would accept some eddy inspections conducted proactively by qualified shops and IAs an alternative method of compliance on a case-by-case basis.
If you own one of the affected Piper models, you can request the AMOC (alternate method of compliance) and provide the FAA the required inspection data on an inspection result form, accessible on the FAA website within the AD document. Costs? Plan on $1100 for an inspection, and a few hours of research labor, to calculate the factored service hours. Link to the FAA AD 2020-26-16 at tinyurl.com/2bnp874f.
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